Batista forced out by Castro-led revolution - HISTORY
Year
1959

Batista forced out by Castro-led revolution

On this day in 1959, facing a popular revolution spearheaded by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista flees the island nation. Amid celebration and chaos in the Cuban capitol of Havana, the U.S. debated how best to deal with the radical Castro and the ominous rumblings of anti-Americanism in Cuba.

The U.S. government had supported Batista, a former soldier and Cuban dictator from 1933 to 1944, who seized power for a second time in a 1952 coup. After Castro and a group of followers, including the South American revolutionary Che Guevara (1928-1967), landed in Cuba to unseat the dictator in December 1956, the U.S. continued to back Batista. Suspicious of what they believed to be Castro’s leftist ideology and worried that his ultimate goals might include attacks on the U.S.’s significant investments and property in Cuba, American officials were nearly unanimous in opposing his revolutionary movement.

Cuban support for Castro’s revolution, however, grew in the late 1950s, partially due to his charisma and nationalistic rhetoric, but also because of increasingly rampant corruption, greed, brutality and inefficiency within the Batista government. This reality forced the U.S. to slowly withdraw its support from Batista and begin a search in Cuba for an alternative to both the dictator and Castro; these efforts failed.

On January 1, 1959, Batista and a number of his supporters fled Cuba for the Dominican Republic. Tens of thousands of Cubans (and thousands of Cuban Americans in the U.S.) celebrated the end of the dictator’s regime. Castro’s supporters moved quickly to establish their power. Judge Manuel Urrutia was named as provisional president. Castro and his band of guerrilla fighters triumphantly entered Havana on January 7.

The U.S. attitude toward the new revolutionary government soon changed from cautiously suspicious to downright hostile. After Castro nationalized American-owned property, allied himself with the Communist Party and grew friendlier with the Soviet Union, America’s Cold War enemy, the U.S severed diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba and enacted a trade and travel embargo that remained in effect until 2015. In April 1961, the U.S. launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt to remove Castro from power. Subsequent covert operations to overthrow Castro, born August 13, 1926, failed and he went on to become one of the world’s longest-ruling heads of state. Fulgencio Batista died in Spain at age 72 on August 6, 1973. In late July 2006, an unwell Fidel Castro temporarily ceded power to his younger brother Raul.Fidel Castroofficially stepped down in February 2008.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

First modern Mummers’ Parade

In honor of the American centennial, the first area-wide New Year’s Day Mummers’ Parade is held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Mummers’ celebrations in America date back to colonial times, when the boisterous Swedish custom of celebrating the end of the calendar year with noise ...read more

New Year’s Day

In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar takes effect.Soon after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh century ...read more

Haitian independence proclaimed

Two months after his defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s colonial forces, Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaims the independence of Saint-Domingue, renaming it Haiti after its original Arawak name.In 1791, a slave revolt erupted on the French colony, and Toussaint-Louverture, a former ...read more

Operation Sam Houston begins

Operation Sam Houston begins as a continuation of border surveillance operations in Pleiku and Kontum Provinces in the Central Highlands by units from the U.S. 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions. The purpose of the operation was to interdict the movement of North Vietnamese troops ...read more

Lincoln signs Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. Attempting to stitch together a nation mired in a bloody civil war, Abraham Lincoln made a last-ditch, but carefully calculated, decision regarding the institution of slavery in America.By the end of 1862, ...read more

E.M. Forster is born

British writer E.M. Forster is born on this day in London. Forster’s architect father died when he was two, and Forster was raised by his mother and a great-aunt in an old house called Rooksnest, which later became the model for the country estate portrayed in Howard’s End. ...read more

Sneak preview of The Birth of a Nation

On this day in 1915, audiences file into the Loring Opera House at 3745 7th Street in Riverside, California, for a special sneak preview of D.W. Griffith’s first full-length feature film, The Clansman. Later renamed The Birth of a Nation, the controversial Civil War epic would ...read more

Air India jet crashes just after takeoff

An Air India Boeing 747 jet crashes into the sea just after takeoff from a Bombay airport on this day in 1978, killing all 213 people on board. The crash was apparently the result of pilot error and equipment malfunction.Air India Flight 855 left Santacruz Airport (now called ...read more

Cuban dictator Batista falls from power

In the face of a popular revolution spearheaded by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista flees the island nation. As celebration and chaos intermingled in the Cuban capitol of Havana, U.S. policymakers debated how best to deal with the radical ...read more

The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect

On this day in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signs the final Emancipation Proclamation, which ends slavery in the rebelling states. A preliminary proclamation was issued in September 1862, following the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. The act signaled an ...read more

Mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line

On this day in 1781, 1,500 soldiers from the Pennsylvania Line–all 11 regiments under General Anthony Wayne’s command–insist that their three-year enlistments are expired, kill three officers in a drunken rage and abandon the Continental Army’s winter camp at Morristown, New ...read more

United Nations created

On this day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill issue a declaration, signed by representatives of 26 countries, called the “United Nations.” The signatories of the declaration vowed to create an international postwar peacekeeping ...read more